Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Joe Duffy - disgraceful radio in action
Sometimes it gets too much, and yesterday was an example. Like thousands of people, if I’m not doing anything more important I’ll switch on RTÉ in the afternoon and listen to Joe Duffy’s Liveline. He’s a decent broadcaster, in that he knows how to get the best out of people much of the time and the topics he chooses to explore are often interesting. But like all RTÉ presenters – is it a hangover from the Harris years? – he’s got a decidedly anti-republican streak. Yesterday it showed.
His programme featured John Stokes, who is a Dublin man and who owns, it seems, a pub there. John has hung a huge banner outside his pub barring Queen Elizabeth and all her family from his pub while Britain occupies one inch of Irish territory. It was done, John told Joe, half in fun and whole in earnest. Like a lot of people, myself included, John doesn’t approve of monarchy and he certainly doesn’t approve of QE2 coming on a state visit to the twenty-six counties, while the north and Britain’s control of same gets airbrushed out of the picture.
Joe gave John - who happens to be the father of Anthony Stokes, the Celtic player – as rocky an interrogation as he could, often veering off to talk about the impact of the banner on his son when he plays in Scotland. Several callers came on, all of them expressing themselves aghast at John’s backward-looking stance, urging him to get with the programme and welcome Her Majesty, a line that Joe quite clearly endorsed.
Finally John said he found it odd that all the callers were opposed to him and his banner, especially as a number of patrons at his bar had told him they were trying to ring in to support him and couldn’t get on air. At last one person in support of Stokes got on. Then Joe read out a text he’d got, accusing him of bias in the programme, a charge he emphatically rejected. John Stokes had got talking for more than twenty minutes in total, Joe said, had been allowed to present his case. How could anyone say there was bias, then?
OK Joe, here’s how they could say there was bias and be bloody-well right. In terms of air-time yes, you could argue Stokes got a fair hearing. But if everyone who phones up thinks Stokes is an unreconstructed nutter, what you get is a chorus of voices vs one voice, and for the average listener that suggests the lone voice does indeed belong to some sort of eccentric or even extremist. If Stokes had been allowed, say, ten minutes of air time, and the remainder given to say five of the people calling in in support of him, that would have been a lot nearer an even-handed presentation of public opinion.
The media are hugely powerful, because among other things, they shape and package the world before presenting it to us as the real thing. As Duffy’s programme yesterday showed, if a presenter or producer wants to pull a fast one and present a selective picture which puffs up View A and does down View B, it’s easy to do.
It happened on RTÉ, the national broadcaster, yesterday, and it’s a bloody disgrace. I’m going to write to them and tell them so. I hope to God you do the same.